The Leland Life
There were some local peculiarities to learn when we first moved to Leland and I’m not solely talking about bridge traffic. But bridge traffic is a biggie, an obstacle you cannot escape if you live in Brunswick County and travel back and forth to Wilmington. Before we bought our house, some local friends told us that bridge traffic was a non-issue. They lied to our faces.
But you get used to the drivers who have never learned to merge and the road bullies that refuse to get in line until the last possible moment, inspiring road rage in me that would frighten professional wrestlers. You learn to grudgingly accept that new reality and leave two hours earlier than you should.
Another anomaly to get used to is something we call “Leland Time.” This is an odd phenomenon where local businesses approximate their own posted hours of operation. The local pharmacy, post office, and a few convenience stores have been known to arbitrarily shut their doors, open late, or close shop with merely a note on the door that reads, “We’ll be right back,” with no estimated time of return. The note could’ve been left 10 minutes ago or in 2006. How long do you wait for a soda? So locals need to set their watches to Leland Time and expect the occasional locked door that should be open.
But those inconveniences are erased by the mere presence of The Kicking Mule. The Kicking Mule is a small, drive-thru convenience store at the junction of Lanvale and Village Roads. It is an old building with fading paint that belongs on a nuclear testing range.
After a working in the yard I like to take the 2-minute drive to the Mule, pull up to the tiny window, order a tallboy of suds, and drive back home to sip beer and reflect on the hard work I just did. I could stock my fridge and simply walk inside to get a refreshment, but there’s nothing like driving down a quiet, rural road at dusk with grubby hands and a cold (unopened) beer in your lap.
“The pond” is another unexpected Leland gem. I found a small pond while jogging one day and it is now an adventure destination for my son and me. Every few weeks we march through the woods behind our house towards the faint hum of traffic on Highway 74/76. Once we emerge from the woods, we walk down the highway like Gypsies for maybe a half mile before entering the clearing to the pond.
I’m not sure if it’s manmade or natural or if the pond has a more official name. But we go and spend a few idle hours along the bank, carelessly tossing sticks and pinecones into the murky water. It must feel like remote wilderness to my son and I enjoy transporting him to this seemingly faraway location. Any traffic jam is worth what he is learning: he will know open spaces and no matter where he lives, his heart will remember the easy pace of rural living.